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Old 02-04-2013, 06:47 PM   #1
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Default Finishing a stuck barley wine

I confess I am still a n00b, and I underpitched (and didn't use a starter) when I fermented this barley wine recipe I created: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f12/english-barleywine-recipe-feedback-380039/

Basically, I was going to repitch some Scottish ale yeast, but when I took that brew out for bottling, I thought it might have a mild infection, so I tossed it. But I still had the barley wine wort ready to go, and I had to improvise. So I just bought two smack packs of the same yeast and threw them in. Obviously I should have used more. Consider the lesson learned, since I have now started making starters.

The question is what to do with the beer, though. Although the recipe I linked lists a calculated OG of 1.101, my OG was actually even higher--1.120--due to evaporation and trub and the consequential 4.2ish gallons I got. I transferred to a secondary after three weeks of fermentation and took a gravity reading (this was two days ago). It was 1.035. I also took a taste, and sure enough it was quite sweet (though certainly delicious). Visible signs of fermentation are nil; I haven't taken a second reading yet to verify no gravity change, but I can also do that. The temperature has not dropped below 66F at any time, and generally it's been more like 68-70F. The last week or so it's been 70-71F. Furthermore, this is a scottish yeast, and I know it can tolerate fairly low temperatures, so I doubt that it stopped due to low temperature.

The question now is how to get it down to the end, which I am hoping to be like 1.020. My grain bill did include some extract and did include some crystal, which surely contains non-fermentable sugars. And I mashed at 154F, so there was some unfermentable sugar created then, too. But I bet there is still plenty of fermentable sugar remaining.

Here are what I thought to be my two main options:

*pitch champagne yeast. Since it's a barley wine and should retain some residual sweetness, this seems like a decent option, since (to my understanding) it will attack only the relatively simple sugars and won't handle, e.g., maltose. It will also be fine operating at the 10% alcohol level already in there. But I worry this might not grab enough of the sugar.

*mix a starter of some more attenuative, alcohol-tolerant yeast, such as Wyeast 3711. I have two concerns on this, though. The first is that this could overly dry the beer out, since its attenuation could potentially be very high. The second is that the weird, estery profile of Saison yeast could interfere with the malty profile of the barley wine. I assume the strategy here would be to keep fermentation on the cooler end of the spectrum (definitely not above 70F).

I am of course totally open to other suggestions too. Anyway, I know I screwed up here, but I'm hoping the wisdom of the masses will help me salvage what is already a delicious (if sweet) beer.

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Old 02-04-2013, 08:59 PM   #2
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From looking at your recipe and process with my experience, I bet you are at or near terminal gravity. 1.120 down to 1.020 is asking quite a bit out of yeast. You have to be mashing quite low and have a monster healthy pitch of some high attenuative yeast to pull that off. 1.035 isn't out of the ballpark considering you ended up much higher on your OG.

Pitching champagne yeast isn't going to do anything for you. That yeast lacks the ability to ferment complex malt sugars.

You could try an active pitch of wlp099, but I don't think you are going to get more than a few points at best. I think you are going to be where you are at.

If it is too sweet, you can try to up the IBU by using some isomerized hop extract. If you search around you should be able to find it in little syringes. That might help offset the sweetness.
I just did and American style in December with an OG of 1.112 and it finished at 1.020. But I only had 1.0 c-40 and I mashed at 149 for about 120 minutes. I hopped it up to about 80 IBU though. That was with two packs(22gm) of re hydrated US-05.

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Old 02-04-2013, 09:05 PM   #3
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Yeast doesn't like starting into a nearly finished fermentation. You have near zero dissolved oxygen and negligible FAN levels. If you think you gravity points left on the table, so to speak, build up a LARGE starter of a neutral ale yeast such as 1056.

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Old 02-04-2013, 09:11 PM   #4
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You could add a little amylase enzyme which will help convert some of the complex sugars into simple ones that can be fermented. I had a stout drop 10 points by doing this when I thought it was stuck. 1 tsp per 5 gallons

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Old 02-04-2013, 09:12 PM   #5
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I'm in the same boat. Roughly the same OG and stuck at the same place and everything.

Here's what I'm gonna do - I've done this in the past with success. This time I'll make a simple cream ale with 1056 and put the BW on the cake.

www.homebrewtalk.com/f13/psa-foolproof-stuck-ferment-fixer-72072/

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Old 02-04-2013, 09:16 PM   #6
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I would leave it. If it is delicious uncarbed, then carbed will be even better.

Also, that big of a beer should get a long conditioning time.

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Old 02-04-2013, 09:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
I would leave it. If it is delicious uncarbed, then carbed will be even better.
This is my thought too. You are going to mess around to try to get a couple more points. I don't see that beer getting below 1.030 for you no matter what you do.

Carbonation and carbonic acid will help cut through some of the sweetness.
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Old 02-04-2013, 09:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fumanbrew
You could add a little amylase enzyme which will help convert some of the complex sugars into simple ones that can be fermented. I had a stout drop 10 points by doing this when I thought it was stuck. 1 tsp per 5 gallons
What did it drop too? Amylase can get you in trouble.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JonM
I'm in the same boat. Roughly the same OG and stuck at the same place and everything.

Here's what I'm gonna do - I've done this in the past with success. This time I'll make a simple cream ale with 1056 and put the BW on the cake.

www.homebrewtalk.com/f13/psa-foolproof-stuck-ferment-fixer-72072/
A much better option.
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Old 02-04-2013, 10:08 PM   #9
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Yeah I think your beer is done. With that much extract and mashing at 154 you probably have a lot of unfermentables in there. I made a 1.092 barleywine recently and only got it down to 1.018 with Nottingham and I mashed at 148. When you do high gravity beers like this you have to mash below 150 to get the wort as fermentable as possible.

As was said before champagne yeast won't do anything for you. It's designed to ferment simple sugars and can't really handle the more complex sugars you need it to ferment. A more attenuative beer yeast might be better but would still probably only give you a couple points if it even survived the shock of being pitched into that high alcohol environment.

The only option I can see is to change the fermentability of the beer by adding enzymes. That will break down the complex sugars into more simple sugars that your yeast can process.

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Old 02-04-2013, 10:09 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeepinjeepin View Post
What did it drop too? Amylase can get you in trouble.

A much better option.
I think I may try that second option.

(It also occurs to me that I could also literally dilute this beer at bottling with a much drier English ale of some kind, say, an amber.)
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